How to approach the holiday season while caring for someone with Dementia – Part Two
There can be so many emotions surrounding the holidays, add caregiving to a person living with Dementia and you have a recipe for a stressful season! Here are a few more tips to make family gatherings not just manageable, but memorable as well!
1. Make Changes to Set Up or Decorations
Dementia is a hard disease, and it can affect everything from cognition level to actual vision and communication. Those living with the disease, and especially those middle to late stages may struggle with things such as your table settings, eating the actual meal, or visually and auditorily being overstimulated. Simple changes such as basic table settings that exclude too much clutter can be helpful. Really busy table cover prints or decorations on the table can distract your loved one from eating their meal safely or perhaps entirely. This could also apply to having too many twinkle or blinking lights indoors. It may visually be overwhelming to your loved one and could lead to safety risks. An extra tip for those who have loved ones in middle to late stages, try and steer clear of artificial candies, fruits, or vegetables as decorations as your loved one can easily be confused and ingest these!
2. Set Aside Quiet Time, Encourage One on One Visits!
Whether the holiday is at a family member’s house or at your loved one’s Assisted Living Community like Iris Memory Care, it is important to keep track of how well your loved one does with groups of people. While those with early-stage dementia may not have trouble, those living with middle to late-stage dementia may struggle with being in bigger groups. Sometimes too many people can be overwhelming, not to mention the noise level or trying to communicate with everyone like they used to. If your loved one does struggle perhaps you can have them stay in a room away from the noise, so they can take breaks when they need to. This could mean sitting in their room just in the quiet or even sitting outside for a little while (depending on
weather and safety precautions) just to get some fresh air. If your loved one is at a facility, perhaps telling family to go in smaller groups around the holiday would be more meaningful than one big visit!
3. Include your Loved One in All You Can!
While inclusion sometimes means taking more time and making things safe, it is worth the time when you see how happy being included in activities can make your loved one. For many, it brings a sense of purpose that perhaps they have been struggling with or perhaps a sense of satisfaction that they have been longing for. There are many ways to have them help that do not involve touching the stove or chopping vegetables. For instance, you could have them roll out cookie dough, wipe and set tables, or even help you wrap presents! Some other inclusive activities could include helping decorate the house, filling the stockings up, or just playing with the grandkids and their new toys!
4. Have Fun and Make Memories
Above all else remember that the holiday season is special for a reason and dementia shouldn’t stop you and your family from having the quality time you all deserve. Your loved one will benefit from spending time with family, as studies have shown that spending time with loved ones (especially children) decreases depression and isolation in seniors, especially those struggling with dementia. There are so many ways to make the holidays safe AND fun. Try these tips and have a wonderful holiday season!